Nate Bussey and the Illini defense will try to hold down Purdue on Saturday.
Oct. 29, 2010
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The Illinois/Purdue game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 with an air time of 11 a.m. CT. Dave Pasch (play-by-play) and Bob Griese (color analyst) will call the action with Bart Fox producing. The UI/PU game can also be watch online at ESPN3.com
The 41-station Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with the pregame show beginning at 10:30 a.m. CT. Calling the action will be Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (color analyst) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame). The broadcast also can be heard on SIRIUS (91) & XM (197) satellite radio. Listen Live (Illini Sports Network)
Tickets are available for Saturday's game against Purdue and can be purchased at the UI Athletic Ticket Office at Assembly Hall, by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1 or online at fightingillini.com.
THE OPENING KICK
The Fighting Illini will look to for win number five this Saturday when Purdue comes to Memorial Stadium to battle for the "Cannon" rivalry trophy. Illinois is looking for its second-straight win after topping Indiana 43-13 last week.
Illinois has faced the toughest schedule in the nation thus far according to the official NCAA schedule strength rankings. Illinois' opponents have a combined record of 35-9 this season vs. Division I opponents (not counting their game vs. Illinois).
Illinois' three losses this season (Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State) have a combined record of 22-1, with all three teams ranked in the top-11 of the Oct. 24 BCS standings. Illinois led two of the three games at halftime (Missouri and Michigan State), and was on the verge of tying Ohio State late in the game before falling short in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.
The Illinois defense has made big strides this year under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Illinois currently ranks 15th nationally in points allowed (17.7 ppg), 19th in rushing yards allowed (112.4 ypg) and 23rd in total defense (315.1 ypg). At the end of last season, the Orange and Blue ranked 96th in scoring defense (30.2 ppg), 76th in rushing defense (154.4 ypg) and 91st in total defense (403.3 ypg).
The Fighting Illini have yet to allow more than 26 points in a game this season despite facing the nation's toughest schedule. Illinois held the high-powered offenses of Missouri (23) and Michigan State (26) to season-low point totals and also held an Ohio State offense averaging 49.3 points per game to 24 points and an Indiana offense averaging 34.2 ppg to 13.
The Illini defense has allowed just eight touchdowns on 25 opponent red zone trips (32.0 percent) and ranks third in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage defense behind only Alabama (30.4 percent) and West Virginia (30.8 percent).
Illinois' defense has held its opposition to under 100 yards rushing four times in seven games this season (98 vs. Missouri, 46 vs. SIU, 65 at Penn St., 93 at Michigan St.) and seven times in the last two seasons. Through seven games, the Illini are allowing 112.4 ypg on the ground, which ranks 19th in the nation.
Illinois ranks third in the nation in red zone scoring percentage, picking up points on 22 of its 23 trips inside the 20 this season (96 percent). The Illini have 11 touchdowns and 11 field goals in the red zone so far this season. The only time the Illini didn't convert a red zone trip into points was when the second half clock ran out at Michigan State with the Illini inside the 20.
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure has topped the 100-yard mark in four games this season and in seven of Illinois' last 13 games dating back to last season. So far this season, Leshoure ranks third in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation in rushing with 108.4 ypg.
Junior linebacker Martez Wilson leads Illinois and ranks in second in the Big Ten in tackles (9.1 tpg) and also ranks second on the team in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (2.0). Wilson has led the Illini in tackles in four of the last five games, posting 11 stops against Northern Illinois, nine against Ohio State and 12 each in the wins at Penn State and vs. Indiana.
Redshirt-freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the third time this season after leading the Illini to the 43-13 win over Indiana last week. Scheelhaase was 13-of-21 for 123 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushed six times for 45 yards (7.5 ypc).